It starts up front at Washougal

Solid play along on the line has helped Panthers to 4-0 start

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

If a play ends with a first down, remember, it started up front.

If a play ends in the end zone, remember, it started up front.

The Washougal Panthers (4-0) do not need any reminders. They are gaining a lot of yards, finding the end zone often, and the players with the ball are enjoying what the guys who don’t have the ball are doing for them.

The last remaining undefeated football team in Clark County got to this point with solid line play.

Even if their names are not in the box scores, the number of names in the box score can give a reader an idea of what the linemen are doing. Eight different Panthers found the end zone in the first two weeks alone, and Washougal is averaging 46 points per game through four weeks.

“It feels good that we’re doing our job,” senior left guard Tyler Purkeypyle said. “It’s not just one running back who is excellent. As a team, as linemen, we’re creating more holes for more running backs to run through.”

“Every game, I’m just trying my hardest to get a running back in the end zone,” senior right tackle Dylan Ritchey said.

That has been the plan all along for second-year coach Bob Jacobs. He did not want just one or two players to get most of the touches on offense.

“I knew coming into the season we had to share the load a little bit. We made that a priority,” Jacobs said. “Fortunately, our kids have embraced what we’re doing. We’ve been pretty unselfish with the football.”

So while a starter might be getting a breather, the reserve can come in and also see success — because of that offensive line.

Sophomore Christian Edmondson is at left tackle alongside Purkeypyle. Junior Anthony Valdez mans the center position. Seniors Jarrett Gregory and Ritchey have the right side responsibilities. Tight end Zach Boland gets the job done as a blocker and a receiver.

“Those are the guys who set the tempo,” Jacobs said.

They have to be smart, too.

“Our blocking schemes aren’t the easiest in the world,” the coach said. “They have to be able to make adjustments on the fly.”

The players love it because there is more accountability.

“It’s a read system. A lot of times, we won’t know who we are going to block until we get to the line,” Gregory said. “The mental aspect of it is a lot harder.”

When the Panthers come to the line, Valdez makes a call, and the word is spread from the guards out to the tackles. “It’s all about communication,” Ritchey said.

The system allows the program to keep moving forward regardless of the size of the linemen.

“With our style of offense, we don’t have to have the bigger linemen to be successful,” Jacobs said. “Our blocking schemes allow for kids to execute at a high level against bigger linemen.”

That has been happening a lot this season in Washougal. People are taking notice, too.

“It’s really cool. There’s a different vibe from before and now,” Gregory said. “I don’t know how many people come up to me and say, ‘Oh, you play Washougal football? That’s awesome. That’s great.’ ”

More fans can be seen at home games, and there is a rooter bus scheduled to go to central Oregon for Washougal’s game at Crook County in Week 6.

So, yes, there is a buzz about Washougal football, something that’s almost unheard of in recent years. The Panthers won eight games total from 2006 through 2009, including one season with no wins.

They are 9-4 under Jacobs.

“We’re going in the right direction,” the coach said.

However, it is now time for a reality check, the coach said. The Panthers open the Class 2A Greater St. Helens League schedule with a home game Friday against R.A. Long.

“We’re real respectful of all of our opponents. When league starts, it’s zero-and-zero,” Jacobs said of the record.

These Panthers believe they have it in them to make it a special season.

“I think everyone’s goal is the same, to be 9-0 going into the playoffs,” Gregory said. “It’s doable if we work hard.”

“We haven’t played a game yet to our full potential,” Purkeypyle said. “This is the new Washougal.”